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Alcohol is a depressant drug and is still one of the main substances commonly misused by people in the UK. Drinking alcohol causes a wide range of physical health problems, either as a result of binge drinking or from more regular drinking.

The problems caused by alcohol include high blood pressure, stroke, liver disease, cancers, falls and other accidents.

Staying safe

  • Mixing different alcoholic drinks, and drugs, makes it more likely you’ll have a bad reaction or lose control.

  • Try not to drink alcohol on an empty stomach as you are more likely to get drunk - have a meal before you drink as the food will help slow down the alcohol being absorbed into your bloodstream.

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Some people drink alcohol to relax, but in reality alcohol can make you feel even more stressed out. Try not to make alcohol key to your after work wind down, and consider some alternative stress-busters like hitting the gym or having a hot bath. 

Underage Drinking

As a parent you have more influence over your child than you may realise. Evidence shows that meaningful conversations between parents and their kids help the child develop a sensible relationship with alcohol. 

From a very early age children want to fit in. This is to demonstrate that they are part of a group (what we call peer pressure).



Using cocaine a lot - Cocaine is a drug which is difficult to control and long term use can have a powerful effect on your mental health resulting in a range of conditions from mild depression and anxiety to the extremes of cocaine psychosis with symptoms similar to schizophrenia.

Staying Safe

  • Avoid taking other stimulants

  • Avoid taking with alcohol - alcohol can potentially increase the adverse effects of cocaine on the heart.

  • Avoid taking cocaine if you are on anti-depressants; they can interact and worsen the effects.

  • When substances are snorted they, tiny capillaries in the nose burst, sharing straws or bank notes can pass blood-borne infections such as Hepatitis B or C or even HIV so use your own device. Resist to have another hit in the morning as a pick me up, this can be a first step towards changing social, recreational use into a problem. 

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Cannabis is a relaxant that slowly changes the way you see the world- it can be hallucinogenic. How people react when they smoke or eat cannabis varies. It's effects on you will depend on how you are feeling before you take it.

Staying safe

  • Make sure you use it in small amounts to test the strength.

  • If you are eating cannabis, make sure you allow at least four hours for the effects to come on before eating any more, otherwise you may accidentally eat too much and have a bad trip.

  • Some people avoid drinking alcohol as it can lessen the effects

  • Make sure you tell a friend if you are feeling anxious or paranoid in a club and get them to take you to the chill out room or outside.

  • Using plain card for a roach. Coloured card has chemicals in the printers’ ink which are released into the lungs. Cigarette filters trap THC as well as smoke, and might just make you smoke more.

  • Use two or three rolling papers, to reduce the amount of burning paper you inhale



Speed is a stimulant drug. It wakes you up and keeps you going. Its effects are like an adrenaline rush; your heart beats faster and you feel like you have more energy.

Methamphetamine (known as Crank, Meth, Base or Ice) is not a common drug on the UK scene. It causes similar effects to speed but lasts longer - 12 hours or more.

Staying safe

  • Avoid injecting speed - it is often cut with stuff that can cause a lot of damage.

  • Avoid taking with other stimulants.

  • Avoid taking speed if you are on anti-depressants.

  • Avoid taking more speed to avoid coming down - you have to come down some time and the longer you leave it the worse it will be for you.

  • Make sure you get plenty of rest and food after a session.



Ecstasy (MDMA) is both a stimulant - it speeds up your body system - and a mood changing drug, which alters how you see the world. Often MDMA comes as a powder or crystals. This is believed to be purer than traditional tablets. The effects can combine feeling both stimulated and relaxed. Around 20 minutes plus you are likely to feel hot and sweaty, have dry mouth and grind your teeth. Your heart beats faster and you can lose your appetite. Researchers have found evidence that high doses of ecstasy damages the brains of animals.

Staying safe

  • Make sure you feel fit and rested in the first place. Ecstasy puts a lot of strain on your heart, liver and kidneys.

  • Avoid taking ecstasy if you suffer from epilepsy, have a heart disease or sickle cell.

  • Avoid taking more once the initial effects have worn off - this strains your system and makes coming down worse.

  • Avoid increasing the amount of ecstasy you take - if you need to take more to get the same effect as the last time, take a break from it. Remember, if you take a break from using any drug, your tolerance will drop so if you start again, use a much smaller amount or you might overdose



Essentially a downer (slows your body down) - a small dose or a small capful of GHB or GBL will make you feel relaxed. and uninhibited. With larger doses, you risk unpleasant effects such as feeling and being sick and disorientation. People have had fits and collapsed. GHB can also cause you to fall into a coma and even cause you to stop breathing. Coma and vomiting is a dangerous mix as you can choke on your vomit and die.

Staying safe

  • GHB / GBL is normally found in liquid form which makes it difficult to control the amount taken so be very careful. (there has been reports of people having their alcoholic drinks spiked with GHB/ GBL so always keep your drink with you).

  • GHB can cause breathing problems so don't take it if you suffer from asthma or any other respiratory condition.

  • Most users recover fully and quickly if they go into a GHB induced coma, but this can be dangerous and individuals who are unconscious will need urgent hospital assessment. There has been an increasing number of deaths in the last few years.

  • If someone collapses after taking G you MUST call an ambulance immediately.



Heroin is a strong pain killer, well known for its addictive properties, so be careful! Street heroin usually comes as a brown powder and is snorted, smoked in a joint, smoked on foil (chasing the dragon) or injected. The first time you use may make you vomit, this is followed by a feeling of well-being and distance from your worries. Users may become so sedated that they appear to be asleep. Some people use heroin to come down from a high they are experiencing from another drug and this is very risky, many people have become dependant in this way.

Staying safe

  • Heroin addiction does not happen instantly although watch for your use increasing and needing to use more to feel the same effect or to stave off from feeling sick.

  • Avoid drinking alcohol with heroin, it greatly increases the risk of an overdose.

  • Many of the health risks with heroin comes from injecting but smoking can cause chest problems.

  • If you inject heroin, it is vital that you do not share any equipment, as blood borne viruses like Hepatitis and HIV are passed on easily. You should seek advice and support from your local drug agency as every London borough has one.

  • It is not just sharing needles and syringes that can be dangerous.



Ketamine is an animal and human anaesthetic (unable to feel pain). It is usually supplied as a powder, crystals or sometimes as a liquid. It detaches people from their environment and some users report being unable to move or speak while being fully conscious. For these reasons it is important to be cautious the first time you use it. Ketamine's hallucinogenic and painkilling effects come on within about 30 seconds if it is snorted, and a few seconds if injected. Regular use damages the lining of the bladder resulting in inconsiderable pain, an increased need to urinate and/or passing of blood in the urine. the damage can be permanent and require surgery.

Staying safe

  • Avoid mixing ketamine with other drugs especially alcohol. If you drink, it can be very difficult to judge how much ketamine to take without falling into a 'K-hole' - a semi-comatose state.

  • Make sure you understand you have a very strong trip and your body may feel numb in what may be a frightening and unpleasant way.

  • Make sure you have friends who know you've taken it and will look out for you. it is very easy for someone to steal or take sexual advantage of someone who has taken ketamine.

  • Avoid taking ketamine anywhere where it could be dangerous if you fall - because it's an anaesthetic you won't know you're hurt.

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There are too many products to  discuss here and even products with a similar name or description may be completely different in terms of their strength, effects and how long they last. Two of the most common families of these new drugs are:

Cathinones such as MeOw, M-Cat, Bath Salt or Methedrone to name a few.

Cathinones are synthetic chemicals

Mephedrone is a white powder which is either snorted or swallowed. It's effects are similar to cocaine.

Spice, Clockwork  Orange, Pandora's Box are smoking mixtures that have chemicals added to them. They have a similar effects to cannabis.

Staying safe

  • Different packets may vary considerably in strength.

  • Don't try a new drug if you are not feeling well.

  • Find out as much as you can about any new drug

  • Take a new drug in a safe place with friends who are not going to take it.

  • Take only small amounts - about a quarter or what you consider to be a tiny dose.

  • Don't mix them with alcohol or other drugs.



Glues, gases and aerosols are breathed in or sniffed from something acting as a container or holder.

There are several different ways to do this, but whatever method is used, it is difficult to control the dose and all methods are potentially fatal.

The risk is greater if used in an enclosed space or if a plastic bag is used that covers both the nose and mouth.

  • Inhaling glues, gases and/or aerosols can cause mood swings, aggressive behaviour, hallucinations, vomiting and blackouts.

  • Squirting gas products down the throat is a particularly dangerous way of taking the drug. It can make your throat swell up so you can't breathe and it can slow down your heart and can cause a heart attack.

  • Some users die from passing out and choking on their own vomit.

  • You risk suffocation if you inhale from a plastic bag over your head.

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Nitrous oxide is a colourless gas that’s most commonly found in pressurised metal canisters. You may have seen these metal canisters lying around in streets outside bars and nightclubs.

Nitrous oxide is inhaled.

People open the canister, transfer the gas into a container (usually a balloon), then inhale from the balloon.

Inhaling nitrous oxide directly from the canister is very dangerous because the gas is under such high pressure. It can cause a spasm of the throat muscle and stop a person breathing.

If you take too much nitrous oxide you risk falling unconscious and/or suffocating from the lack of oxygen.  People have died this way. Inhaling it from a balloon means you can control how much gas you take and you should never take Nos on your own. Have someone with you that you can trust especially if you pass out as they will need to call 999.



There are many different types of minor tranquillisers, but the most common are the group of drugs called benzodiazepines.

These include Xanax, Rohypnol, Valium (also called diazepam), temazepam and phenazepam although this latter drug is sometimes found in street drugs, it is not prescribed by doctors in the UK.

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In their pure form, synthetic cannabinoids are either solids or oils. They are then added to dried herbs, vegetable matter or plant cuttings to make a smoking mixture (so that it looks more like real herbal cannabis). 

The smoking mixtures are packaged in small, often colourful sachets with labels describing the contents as incense or herbal smoking mixture, and usually stating 'not for human consumption'.



A syrup – codeine based cough syrup which is usually mixed with alcohol and sometimes fruit flavoured sweets. It takes around one hour for codeine to take effect and lasts for around 3 to 4 hours depending on the dose taken.

the side effects stem from making you feel tired or lethargic to the following:

  • Lower blood pressure and abnormal breathing, which can lead to respiratory arrest – which is when you stop breathing altogether.

  • Fatal side effects from another drug if the codeine is part of a combined medicine, such as co-codamol. These include: kidney failure, liver failure, indigestion or bleeding from the stomach.

  • Fatal side effects if you mix the codeine with other drugs that suppress breathing – such as alcohol, benzodiazepines like   diazepam (Valium), or other opioid drugs.

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